Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I Thought I was Done with this

Once I got engaged, I thought I wouldn’t have to date anymore, but that’s pretty much what my experience was this past Sunday at the OU’s Emerging Communities Fair in The Grand Hyatt. For those unfamiliar, the OU sponsors an annual event wherein small, developing Jewish communities and Elizabeth, NJ convene in Manhattan to tell you what their community is about. The idea being that they can attract as many people as possible to help build up their community.

It was not too long before Erachet and I realized that like dating, many of the prospects began sounding the same. Every boasted of the accepting, close-knit community; “Laid back,” “friendly” and “warm” were terms I was used to reading on shidduch resumes, and I was now reading them on pamphlets about towns.

Also, I need to ask what is with the fascination with Jews and food? Should I really care about a kosher pizza store? Is that really the best way to win over a perspective community member? It’s nice icing on the cake, but I wouldn’t lead with that argument. Ability to attain kosher food (like meat and cheese) is important, but I am not making my decision of where to live based on the ability to easily grab a burger on the way home from Shul.

Don’t get me wrong, there were a number of communities that stood out (which I won’t mention right here), but for the most part they sounded the same. There were many places that were really pushing the fact that they had a low cost of housing, but was kind of offset by the lack of jobs available.

In the end, we figured out that just like dating, we weren’t getting enough of an idea about each community by just having someone talk about it, and reading a few brochures; we need to date each community for a while to see which one (if any) we like enough to take the next step. And the best part is we can date more than one simultaneously.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sing for the Left

Jewish music has started to bug me a little bit. It’s not that I don’t like it. In fact, I am a huge fan of most singers and groups. But I gotta ask – what is up with the English songs? Jewish English songs have gotten so cheesy of late. They are all generic praising G-d songs, with bad lyrics and forced rhymes.

A particular thought that came to mind on this subject is that Jewish Singers don’t come out with songs that have nothing to do with Judaism. I’m not talking about love songs. I am talking about songs that have may have some sort of significance to many people, but aren’t about something intrinsically Jewish.

It’s true that there are Journeys songs like “What you’re Looking for,” “The Cat Ate the Canary” and “The Shadchan,” to which many people can either relate or at least understand. However, these songs are not going to be written by a non-Jewish singer.

“What You’re Looking For” has a lot of the same elements as Bon Jovi’s “Who Says you Can’t Go Home,” but it is clear throughout the song that the person is looking for religious meaning in his or her life, whereas the Bon Jovi song is simply talking about someone lost.

“The Cat Ate the Canary” is clearly a political song, but it is not about anything that is not related to Judaism. A song like that would have to be about some political Israel or Jewish topic in order to appear on an orthodox Jewish album.

“The Shadchan” is a story about the difficulty of finding love. Easy enough. But once you start mentioning a sefer on the dashboard or a hat and jacket or, oh yeah, a shadchan, it is automatically a Jewish song.

Even a song like “Be Brave, Be Strong” is only a song about Israel. A Jewish CD would not have a “We are the World” for a random other Nation. I am not saying that they should, just that they don’t.

But here’s my question: why don’t Jewish Singers have songs that aren’t about Judaism, but aren’t necessarily against Judaism? Something completely neutral would be interesting; maybe something like the struggles of growing up.

Now I posed this question to Erachet, and she offered that the reason is because of theme. Almost always, a band will put out a CD wherein all or many of the tracks will be of the same genre. In fact, many times a CD will have a running theme throughout the whole album. (An example of this is Shalsheles 2, which is all about the theme of peace.) Taking this into account, if most of an album is about Judaism, then having one track devoted to something else would ruin the theme.

This is okay in principle, but one could argue a few things on this. Firstly, if it's on an album with mostly Jewish-oriented songs, a neutral song may be looked at as a Jewish song (simply because of the artist and the songs surrounding it would be Jewish). Secondly, "Judaism" is a broad theme. It can encompass things that aren't explicitly written with Hebrew words and the mention of G-d and Jerusalem. A song that is not about an exact topic related to Judaism can still be about Judaism.

That doesn't mean that I want more of those love songs disguised as loving G-d or Jerusalem. That's not what I'm talking about. I merely want a song written by (or for) a Jewish singer that can stand by itself. It would just make words a lot less cheesy and forced.

It's not like there aren't any of these types of songs out there. In fact, I am adding a list of secular songs that would fall under the category of audience-appropriate songs (as judged by Jughead's Hat) that have nothing to do with religion. The list takes into account certain exceptions to what qualifies. Any songs that contain inappropriate content or do not apply to the types of productions made by Jewish artists will not qualify for this list. These exceptions include:

Love songs

TV Show themes (The Ballad of Gilligan’s Island, The Brady Bunch, etc.)

Songs made for movies or musicals (Friend Like Me, Defying Gravity, etc.)

Classical Music or Instrumentals

Songs about vices (Cocaine, Alcohol, etc.)

Songs that are about something else but mention or hint to love or romance (Sweet Child O’ Mine)

Parodies (Eat It)

Holiday Songs

16 Tons by Tennessee Ernie Ford (Rockapella Version)
Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty
Beautiful Day by U2
Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen
Celebration by Kool and the Gang
Dream On by Aerosmith
For What it's Worth by Buffalo Springfield
Have a Nice Day by Bon Jovi
How to Save a Life by The Fray
It’s My Life by Bon Jovi
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door by Bob Dylan
Like a Rock by Bob Seger
Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson
New York, New York by Frank Sinatra
The Final Countdown by Europe
Watching You by Rodney Atkins
We are the Champions by Queen
We are the World by Michael Jackson
Who Says You Can’t Go Home by Bon Jovi
With a Little Help from My Friends by Joe Cocker

Now, I am sure that writing a song like this cannot be an easy thing to do, otherwise there would probably be more. What are your favorites that didn't make my list? Remember, there are rules as to what qualifies. Also, am I missing any Jewish songs that would fit this category? And finally, am I wrong? Should Jewish singers keep their nose out of the